After a successful career at Canyon High School, soccer players Rick Snyder, Doug Neely and Moi Garcia parted ways.
Snyder and Neely went to Division I soccer power San Diego State in 1983. Garcia, wanting to stay in a more intimate academic environment near home, chose Chapman.
"Those guys wanted to play in the big time," said Garcia, who led Canyon to a Southern Section 4-A No. 1 ranking in 1983. "But I didn't want to be just a number."
Garcia, Snyder and Neely had played a little soccer with Chapman Coach Eunice Bobert when Bobert was a standout player at Chapman from 1978-81. "We had known Eunice through high school," Garcia said. "I felt comfortable with him. Chapman was better for me."
Snyder and Neely decided differently. It took two years of collegiate hop-scotch before both chose to reunite with Garcia on Chapman's field.
Neely, the 1983 Times Player of the Year, made the SDSU varsity as a freshman. But after two years, he decided to switch to Chapman.
"I had a lot of fun at San Diego," said Neely. "But my grades were getting worse. I knew Chapman had a good (academic) program. They really do a lot to help you--like send you reports on how you're doing and stuff. And then I knew Moi was there and he really liked it. We used to kick around with those (Chapman) guys in high school, so we already were familiar with the team."
That was good enough for Snyder, too. He had also left SDSU--though after only one year--hoping to improve his grades. At the urging of friends, Snyder enrolled at Orange Coast College. He played for the Pirates for a year until Neely told him of his plans to transfer to Chapman.
"When Doug told me he was going, I knew right away I would, too," Snyder said. "It would be fun to be on the same team with him and Moi again."
And what fun it was. Within days, the three Canyon graduates were reliving their Comanche days, joking and recalling old strategies.
Bobert noticed something even better. An overall increase in the team's performance inspired by the two newcomers led to last year's 12th-place national ranking in Division II.
"Doug and Rick really set the tone for the others," Bobert said. "When they came in last year, they showed everybody what (high-level) soccer really is. When you see them out on the field, it's hard not to respect them."
Though the two have played together since fifth grade, Snyder and Neely have distinct styles.
Snyder, who led the Panthers' last season with seven goals and six assists, plays his center forward position like something of a steamroller.
"We call him 'The Duke,' " Neely said of his 5-foot 10-inch, 160-pound teammate. "He just runs over people. He's really strong, stronger than most players even in Division I. He pushes right by the biggest guys."
Neely, whom Bobert described as someone who "can handle a spot that would usually require two kids," plays center halfback, a midfield position that usually means all work, no glory. Nevertheless, Neely was fourth in scoring for Chapman last season--a feat his teammates attribute to the way he takes over the midfield.
"He runs it," Snyder said. "Ask anybody. No one can control the midfield like Doug can. He's always go, go, go until the whistle blows. And he gets the weirdest shots. Things you're sure are gone until he just gets his leg up there and saves it."
Neely is nicknamed "Twitchel" for the unorthodox way he dribbles the ball. At 5-11 and 160, he hovers over the ball as if he's on the verge of toppling over it.
"He always looks like he's going to fall over," Snyder said. "He really freaks people out doing it."
Garcia, the standout of the three while in high school, has been known for one infamous stunt ever since Snyder and Neely can remember: the "surprise bop-on-the-head kick."
A 5-11, 180-pound forward, Garcia appears to have a penchant for surprise attacks--especially after the coach already has given the at-ease signal to the rest of the team. His teammates say the shots Garcia describes as "extra practice kicks" are actually aimed and dangerous.
"I don't know why, but it happens," Garcia said. "I don't want to sound mean, but it is satisfying. It's like a streak I have to keep going."